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US Army to Develop 300-kW Laser-Based Air Defense System

The US Army has contracted a General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS)-Boeing team to develop a 300-kilowatt laser-based air defense system prototype.

The solid-state Distributed Gain High Energy Laser Weapon System will include GA-EMS’ scalable High Energy Laser (HEL) weapon system and Boeing’s beam director to defeat a range of “emerging threats.”

Scalable System

The defense firms announced a joint scalable HEL system in October last year to combine the GA-EMS’ “scalable distributed gain laser technology, HELLi-ion battery systems, and integrated thermal management with Boeing’s beam director and precision acquisition, tracking and pointing (ATP) software.”

The system is being developed to reduce the army’s logistics footprint while providing a configurable standalone weapon system integrated with an array of “mobile ground, sea and air-based platforms.”

Greatest ‘Lethal Output’ 

Dr. Michael Perry, vice president for lasers and advanced sensors at GA-EMS, said that the system “employs two Gen 7 laser heads in a very compact and lightweight package.” He added that “recent architectural improvements have enabled our single-beam DG Lasers to achieve comparable beam quality to fiber lasers in a very simple design without the need for beam combination.”

GA-EMS president Scott Forney revealed that the system prototype will discharge greater “lethal output” than any fielded laser weapon system ever, calling the technology a “leap-ahead capability for air and missile defense that is necessary to support the Army’s modernization efforts and defeat next-generation threats in a multi-domain battlespace.”

The US military is on the verge of fielding a range of laser weapon systems, including the High Energy Laser with Integrated Optical-dazzler and Surveillance by the US Navy and the Airborne High Energy Laser by the US Air Force. Both the systems are developed by Lockheed Martin and discharge a reported 60 kilowatts.

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